The Deal: Orchestral weirdness from squeaky-voiced, piano-mashing Brit.
The Good: Matthew Thomas Dillon plays under the name Windmill, as in "tilting at," and that's as good a place as any to start with the fanciful Puddle City Racing Lights. Built around the Englishman's crashing piano chords, string swells, gi-normous drums and high-on-helium-vocals guaranteed to initially repel, Puddle City's songs drink from the same spiked punch as acid-droppers like Mercury Rev and The Flaming Lips. In fact, if either band were fronted by an even squeakier Daniel Johnston it might've sounded like this. Dillon doesn't have Johnston's knack for knocking you on your ass with a single couplet and lacks Wayne Coyne's prophet-like charisma, but his songs build to some seriously majestic moments, contrasting dramatic orchestral crescendos with delicate piano, bass and double-tracked vocal bits (with the occasional elegiac cello) that recall Deserters Songs' quieter moments. The post-psychedelic vibe is heightened by narratives that take place in songs named after "Boarding Lounges," "Fluorescent Lights" and "Plasticine Plugs," but the viewpoint is always first-person intimate. Getting past Dillon's voice takes time, and there's no guarantee you will, but it's worth it; when everything coalesces, like it does best on album highlight "Fit," where his vocals blend in with lustrous arrangements and huge hooky choruses, you'll be hitting the "repeat" button like a lab rat.
The Bad: At times maybe a bit too in thrall with the Lips/Rev aesthetic. And have we talked about his voice?
The Verdict: For open-minded fans of the Lips and Rev.